The Halifax Board of Selectmen held an emergency meeting on the morning of Thursday, May 27 to discuss possibly reconsidering decisions made during a Selectmen’s meeting two days prior regarding the processes for annual appointments.
The Selectmen voted on May 25 to eliminate preference for current office holders and to potentially interview all applicants for one or more offices including the current officeholders. Also being reconsidered was whether to advertise and recruit for all paid appointed positions with terms expiring on June 30, 2021. Those positions include the Police Chief, the Town Accountant, the Town Counsel, and the Building Inspector.
Selectmen Chair Gordon Andrews began the Thursday meeting asking the Board if they would like to rescind their vote from the previous meeting and inquiring as to how they wished to proceed with the appointments. Longtime Selectman Troy Garron said, “I for one vote that we rescind the vote that was taken.” Referencing those that were up for reappointment he said, “None of the people have shown that they have caused any problems enough that they should lose their job over the past year since I’ve been here. In as much as there’s not any complaints or written evidence that any of these individuals are not doing their jobs, I vote that we appoint them as listed.” There was no second, however, to Garron’s motion. Newest Selectman Ashley DiSesa instead made a motion to go through the list individually. DiSesa’s motion was seconded by Andrews. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig indicated to Andrews that there were a number of letters from the individuals up for reappointment indicating their interest in being reappointed.
Before going through the list, a resident in attendance voiced concern over holding a meeting of such significance during morning hours on a work and school day where likely many residents would be unable to attend. Andrews acknowledged the concern but said that it had to be done that way due to the contract with the Police Chief. Andrews explained that at the previous meeting they had tasked Seelig with advertising and posting the positions in question by the following day, making the need for the meeting imminent. The resident said, “This town has had a problem for a long time with the infighting; it’s worse than the government between the Democrats and Republicans. It needs to stop. We are a community, a town, we work together.” Referencing the small gathering of residents during the Thursday morning meeting, the resident said, “You’re making decisions for this town with 25 people out of 8,000; I object to that.” Andrews responded, “The appointments are made by the Board of Selectmen. There doesn’t have to be any public input for this.”
Assistant Treasurer Linda Cole spoke next warning the Selectmen that from a human resources perspective, there would likely be considerable ramifications of not reappointing someone without just cause. She said the ramifications could be “very costly to the town and to the residents; without proper documentation to not reappoint somebody you risk lawsuits.” Andrews responded that he had talked to town counsel about the issue and that since the appointment ends on a specific date, there is no guarantee of reappointment after that. Amy L. Troup also took to the microphone asking how long it had been the process that the selectmen appoint people to positions in town. Garron responded, “At least 31 years.”
The Selectmen then proceeded to go through the list of reappointments one by one. Andrews recused himself from the discussion on the reappointment of the Building Commissioner/Inspector of Buildings. Garron asked current Building Inspector Robert Piccirilli why he felt he should be reappointed. Piccirilli responded, “I feel like I’ve always done my job to the best of my ability. If it’s the Board’s decision, I’d like to know where they feel I haven’t done my job.” He added, “I love this community. I live in this community. It’s a thankless job.” Piccirilli’s counsel spoke saying, “I would raise an objection to Selectwoman DiSesa’s involvement in this particular part of the proceeding; the reason I say that is she just won election to her position after waging a campaign that was full of personal allegations against Mr. Piccirilli, both personally as well as as Building Inspector.” He asked that she recuse herself from consideration of Piccirilli’s reappointment. Others, including Garron, also spoke in favor of Piccirilli’s competency. DiSesa said she wished to speak with town counsel prior to voting in order to determine if she needs to recuse herself from the vote on Piccirilli’s reappointment. The vote was moved to the June 1 meeting to allow time for her to do that.
Next, DiSesa made a motion to reappoint Police Chief Joao Chaves to a term expiring on June 30, 2024. Garron seconded the motion and the vote to reappoint was unanimous.
Garron made a motion to appoint the Building Inspector Assistant William Kelly to a term expiring on June 30, 2022 and the selectmen voted unanimously to reappoint. Next, they unanimously voted to reappoint David Moore as Sealer of Weights and Measures to a term expiring on June 30, 2022. Town Accountant Sandra Nolan was also unanimously reappointed to a term expiring on June 30, 2024.
Garron made a motion to appoint Town Counsel Larry Mayo to a term expiring on June 30, 2022 but there was no second and the Selectmen continued down the list. Wilford Corey was unanimously reappointed as Veteran’s Agent for a term expiring on June 30, 2022. Stephen Peterson was unanimously reappointed as Wiring Inspector and Dennis McManus as Wiring Inspector Assistant both to terms expiring on June 30, 2022.
The Board asked Seelig to advertise for the Town Counsel with interviews planned for June 24. Thirty minutes were allotted for interviews. The Board was clearly divided with Andrews and DiSesa in favor of interviewing for the position and Garron clearly against.
Before adjourning, Seelig also addressed the myriad of vacancies for unpaid volunteer positions in town. Seelig said there would be a submission deadline of June 9 for talent bank forms with interviews held on June 15.